Mayor Michael Nutter, joined by Gov. Tom Wolf, helped the ribbon on the new Congregation Rodeph Shalom’s new community center on Sunday. — SUBMITTED PHOTO

Mayor Michael Nutter and Gov. Tom Wolf were among those who cut the ribbon on the new Congregation Rodeph Shalom’s new community center on Sunday.

The newly renovated 17,500 square foot state-of-the-art facility at 615 N. Broad St. will provide meeting and classroom space to the Philadelphia area. More than 400 came out to the brief ceremony. The theme of the event was “Honoring our Past…Opening the Door to Our Future.”

“While some institutions have moved out of the city, Rodeph Shalom has stuck to its vision of being an urban congregation with a broad based membership,” said Nutter during his remarks at the outdoor ceremony. “The congregation moved to this current site in 1871 and has been steadfast in its commitment to North Broad Street. Members of the congregation take seriously their obligation to civic affairs;

“[They] play active roles in many of the governmental educational and cultural institutions in the city. At the same time, the congregation is committed to working with its immediate neighbors in shaping the cityscape, educating its children and providing affordable, nutritious food through a farmer’s market, the Common Ground Marketplace,” Nutter said.

Among those present was member Alan Buerger. His family have been members of the house of worship since its inception. “Our three grandchildren will be the sixth generation at Congregation Rodeph Shalom,” Buerger said.

Congregation Rodeph Shalom was originally founded in 1795 and was the first Ashkenazic congregation in the western hemisphere. Originally it met in several locations in Olde City for the first half century. It then became the Juliana Street Synagogue. Then, as the north Broad Street corridor developed, the congregation contracted Frank Furness to design a new sanctuary at its current location at Broad and Mount Vernon streets. This was completed in 1871.

Later, the smaller Furness building was redesigned into a larger Moorish-Byzantine styled synagogue. The current home to the congregation features a limestone exterior, lavish interior stained glass, marble flooring, and hand painted decorative stenciling. The dedication to the current sanctuary took place in 1928. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We have always had a beautiful sanctuary,” said Lloyd Brotman, president of Congregation Rodeph Shalom. “But, it is when we gather, when we connect to each other, to our traditions and to God, that our building becomes a holy place. Our new building will bring us into the 21st Century. It will be safer and accessible.

“It will only become a holy place by virtue of our intentional actions. It will be up to us to transform our new building into a sacred space,” Brotman said.

The Rodeph Shalom addition was designed by Kiernan Timberlake. It is designed to reflect the grandeur of 1927 architecture. After the ceremony those present were invited to tour the new building. They also attended a tasting event at the Common Ground Farmers’ Market, Broad and Mount Vernon streets.

Common Ground Market is a gathering space that celebrates the diverse North Philadelphia community. The Sunday market is a weekly showcase featuring farmers, food artisans, artists, community outreach programs, and on-site preventative health and social services. Through local partnerships, it focuses on empowering individuals in order to continue to build a vibrant and health neighborhood, according to the congregation’s board.

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